Seven Good Reasons To Make A Will
Common misconceptions include a belief that what you own will automatically pass to your spouse / partner or to your children, or that your assets are too small to justify making a Will.
Making a Will is the ONLY certain way to ensure that you provide for your family or loved ones as you would wish. If you die without a Will in place then the Intestacy Rules will decide how your assets are to be distributed. The Intestacy Rules can produce often unexpected results - particularly if you are married for a second time or if there are children from a previous relationship. The Intestacy Rules do not recognize cohabitees so that if you die without a Will in such a case, your partner would have to apply to the Court for an appropriate share of your estate. A simple Will is all that would be needed to ensure that your partner and children were properly provided for in such a case.
So what are the reasons for making a Will?
1 You can choose your Executors.
Your Executors are the persons who have the responsibility for sorting out the legal and tax formalities that have to be dealt with and then distributing your estate in accordance with the terms of your Will.
If you do not make a Will then you will not be able to choose who manages your affairs in the event of your death. The law will decide this for you. This could result in the appointment of someone who does not have the appropriate skills to deal with your assets and ensure they pass to the entitled beneficiaries. In some cases this can cause unnecessary cost and delay in completing the administration of the estate.
2 Your children.
If you have children you can appoint a Guardian in your Will for the children whilst they are under the age of 18. The Guardian would legally be able to look after the children and to make decisions on their behalf in the event of your death. This is an important matter and your opportunity to make the right decision in the best interests of your children.
3 To choose your beneficiaries
You can choose your beneficiaries and decide how best to distribute your estate to reflect your wishes. If you want to leave something to friends or charity you can only do so in a Will.
If you do not make a Will then your beneficiaries will inherit outright at the age of 18. You may feel that this is too young in some cases and wish to delay the inheritance until the age of 21 or 25 years. You can do so in a Will and include powers for the Executors to make funds available to or for the benefit of a beneficiary before your chosen age, so that the beneficiary is suitably maintained and would be able to continue with his or her education.
4 To provide for more complicated family arrangements.
Wills can be used to provide for more complicated family circumstances, for example including children from a previous relationship or your stepchildren. A Will can give a second spouse a right to occupy the family home whilst protecting the capital for the children of an earlier marriage or relationship. This can ensure that assets are kept within the immediate family whilst also making proper provision for all dependents.
Wills can provide flexible solutions to practical problems often by using an appropriate form of Trust. A well drafted Will may pre-empt any costly Court challenge to the distribution of the estate.
5 Asset protection
An ever-aging population means that more and more family homes are sold each year to fund the cost of residential care. A carefully drafted Will can provide that the family home (or a share of it) passes into a trust to allow the survivor to occupy it, whilst at the same time ensuring that the capital is protected from residential care home fees and is available for your intended beneficiaries. This type of trust can be drafted flexibly to allow the survivor to 'downsize' or move home.
Trusts can also be used to protect assets in case your beneficiaries should suffer financial or matrimonial difficulties in the future, or if you have any vulnerable or disabled beneficiaries.
6 Estate and tax planning.
A Will is a useful tool to undertake longer term estate planning to reduce the burden of inheritance tax on your children or future generations. If you have business or agricultural property a Will is essential to ensure that the tax reliefs are available. By making a Will and taking advice at an early opportunity you can ensure that your interests are protected and suitable succession arrangements are in place.
7 Peace of Mind.
A Will can deal with many other issues, such as your funeral wishes or arrangements for the care of a pet. Once you have made a Will you can be reassured that all the important issues have been addressed.
Your Will is an important document and should be prepared by a suitably qualified professional such as a Solicitor who will be able to advise not only on the Will itself, but also on related issues such as Tax, Trusts or Care home fees or even property or family law issues. Many qualified professionals will also be members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).
Making a straight forward Will need not be expensive and with the right advice need not be a long or complex process.